In April, we announced the newest Ram Trucks Brand Ambassador, Cameron Hanes. Shortly after joining the “Ram Family” — Cameron headed to the Kentucky Derby with the Ram Truck Brand to get an exclusive experience at Churchill Downs during Derby Weekend. Here’s an inside look written by Cameron about his experience.
As a newly titled ambassador for Ram Trucks the first assignment in my new role would have been exciting and noteworthy regardless of what it was: appearing at a Ram Trucks sponsored oil change jamboree, canned food drive or car wash. It wouldn’t have mattered to me. Being there representing Ram Trucks would have been an honor. The fact that my first official appearance for Ram Trucks was to be at the Kentucky Derby seemed surreal for a couple of reasons.
First, I love the racetrack. As a teenager I worked for my grandpa Bob during the summer and he was a very successful quarter horse trainer/owner and breeder of premier racehorses in Oregon. I would travel across the northwest with him to racetracks in Idaho, Oregon and Washington where we would stay at the track, sleeping in the horse trailer. I was a “jockey boy” which meant I would work and warm up the horses before the race.
Other than that I’d do chores, clean stalls, feed, brush horses, and more. I loved the track life and loved the horses. I thought I wanted to be a horse trainer like my grandpa when I got older. Given this history it should paint a pretty clear picture of why the Kentucky Derby was a meaningful event for me, aside from the history and pageantry that draws everyone in.
Second, the racetrack brings back the fond memories that I’ve mentioned above but also some bittersweet memories as well. In high school I was a starting wide receiver on the football team and, as you’d expect, Homecoming was a big deal. For the Homecoming game my junior year my grandma Ruby travelled from her and my grandpa’s ranch in eastern Oregon to attend, watch me play and participate in the Homecoming Court as a Prince. After the game and all the festivities I made it home and went to bed. My grandma was staying with us and we all were awoken by a late night phone call from the police. My grandpa had been at a racetrack in Washington and coming home he was killed in a car accident. This was obviously tough for everyone, but it also altered my course of life as I had planned on working with my grandpa after graduating high school, and like him, maybe the horses and the track would have become the focus of my life. As it was, my grandma sold the ranch, horses, the horse trailers, tack, everything.
The trumpet call, or “call to post” that summons the horses to the track, instantly brings back a flood of memories. When I think of the track, I think of the good times with my grandpa.
So, as a horse lover and specifically a racehorse lover, the Derby was amazing. My favorite part of the weekend was on Friday when I had to chance to go to the “backside” of the track. The backside is kind of behind the scenes at Churchill Downs. I was there as dawn broke, where I was able to watch the horses working up a lather on the track, then getting cooled down and washed up after their workout. The trainers were doing what they do, the horses were the amazing athletes they are and the track scene was abuzz with excitement and anticipation. This experience alone for me was worth the trip. There were live broadcasts set up all along the track perimeter on the backside. And even though it was 6:00 a.m., in true Derby fashion, the ladies were dressed to a tee. Beautiful dresses, hair perfect, make up on point and of course the hats. I thought to myself, they must have got up at 2:00 a.m. to get all done up and to the track by sunrise. Impressive work ladies.
Not long after the backside experience I had the chance to interview two Derby jockeys who are sponsored by Ram Trucks. It was really cool getting insight and learning the mindset from participates in the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” Also, we did the interview live for Ram Trucks on Twitter and a new platform, Periscope. My favorite question was when I asked the jockeys, “In the Derby, who is gutsier, the horse or the jockey?”
Finally, there’s the Kentucky Derby. A huge crowd, celebrities, passion, tradition, the best race horses in the world; Derby Saturday is something special. A big draw for fans at Churchill Downs was the Ram Trucks photo op, where race attendees could get their photos taken with a beautiful display of roses arranged as a giant Ram Trucks logo with a backdrop framed by a Ram Truck on either side. Photos were emailed free to those who took advantage of it, which was many. Every time I walked by there was a long line of folks waiting to have their Derby experience commemorated. I took advantage of this opportunity myself.
As for the race, it was exciting, which goes without saying. I was pulling for the Ram Trucks jockeys, who were riding three great horses. In the end the favorite American Pharaoh proved the odds right by making a late charge for the finish.
I had an amazing experience at the Derby and can only hope all my future assignments for Ram Trucks measure up. Hope to see you next year at the Kentucky Derby.